RXi Pharmaceuticals Corporation (Nasdaq: RXII), a recognized leader in RNAi-based therapeutic discovery and development, and Apthera, Inc., a private biotechnology company developing a pipeline of peptide-based immunotherapies for the adjuvant treatment of HER2-positive breast and other cancers, announced today the signing of a definitive merger agreement under which RXi will acquire Apthera. The acquisition provides RXi with a late stage product candidate, NeuVax™, a peptide-based immunotherapy for low-to-intermediate HER2+ breast cancer, not eligible for Herceptin®, which is expected to enter Phase III clinical trials in the first half of 2012. The Company’s first RNAi product, RXI-109 for anti-scarring, remains on track for an investigational new drug (IND) application filing this year.
Under the terms of the agreement, Apthera shareholders will initially receive approximately 4.8 million shares of RXi’s common stock. Apthera’s stockholders will also be entitled to contingent payments based on the achievement of certain development and commercial milestones relating to Apthera’s NeuVax ™ product candidate.
In connection with the acquisition, Mark J. Ahn, PhD, currently a member of RXi’s Board of Directors, will succeed Noah D. Beerman as President and Chief Executive Officer of RXi and will lead the combined company, which will operate out of RXi's current headquarters. “Mark Ahn brings significant experience and leadership in developing and commercializing major oncology and immunology therapeutics,” said Sanford Hillsberg, RXi’s Chairman of the Board. “We want to thank Noah Beerman for his excellent service as RXi’s President and Chief Executive Officer during our transition from a research to a product oriented company. We are delighted that Noah will be assisting us in the coming months as a consultant to the Company and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Dr. Ahn, 48, has over 20 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry. He most recently served as Principal at Pukana Partners, Ltd., which provides strategic consulting to life science companies; and academic positions at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University and Chair, Science & Technology Management, Victoria University at Wellington, New Zealand. Dr. Ahn was also the founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Hana Biosciences. Prior to Hana, he served as Vice President, Hematology and corporate officer at Genentech, Inc., as well as having held senior corporate positions at Amgen and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Dr. Ahn has also served on multiple public and venture capital-backed boards of directors.